Joel Snyder's take on SolarWinds' Kiwi buy

* Industry analyst offers his perspective on why the acquisition could benefit customers

Last week in Network World, I covered the news that network and systems management software maker SolarWinds acquired Kiwi Enterprises, a New Zealand-based maker of management tools and freeware.

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Opus One Senior Partner Joel Snyder -- also a Network World product tester. columnist and security guru -- requested the opportunity to share his thoughts on the acquisition via the Network/Systems Management Alert. Read his thoughts from an end-user perspective on the recent buy here:

<start> I read the recent release about SolarWinds acquiring Kiwi and was pleasantly surprised. I think it's good for both companies, and all their customers.

We have long-been a WhatsUp Gold (Ipswitch) shop, and it's been a nice tool for our network monitoring and management. But WhatsUp only goes so far, so we've had to supplement it with a number of other tools: a Cacti server for bandwidth monitoring, a better Syslog server, and a configuration management tool. The last two we buy from Kiwi -- Syslog server and CatTools. 

I bounced through a couple of other options, including CiscoWorks and some of the open source tools before settling on Kiwi a few years ago as the best solution for us. The combination of really affordable pricing and solid tools have really performed well for us, and Kiwi saves us just enough in management and configuration that their annual maintenance fees seem like a bargain. So you can count us in as happy Kiwi customers.

I have been avoiding SolarWinds, though, because it seemed to me like a more expensive version of WhatsUp, and I didn't see any real reason to re-evaluate WhatsUp and go through the pain of conversion. But a few weeks ago, they talked me into spending a day with them, seeing what SolarWinds could do for us. (One of the few benefits of being a Network World writer is that you get treated better than the typical two-person business by vendors). I came away pretty impressed, because I could see that SolarWinds would be able to replace our WhatsUp and a big chunk of other management, such as the performance monitoring we are doing with Cacti, bringing it all together. SolarWinds also comes with a pile of little freebie tools, and I've already had a chance to use them for tasks such as LAN switch mapping when we installed our new SAN and forgot to label any of the cables.

However, when the SolarWinds guys came out (we got a day's worth of Josh Stephens and David Byrd's time; Stephens has a well-written blog on the topic of network management here) and I gave them an earful about what I didn't like, and the biggest hole was obviously the one that Kiwi CatTools and the Kiwi Syslog server were filling. I did a demo of how we use them in our network and told them that they really needed tools like that to fill out their tool kit.

SolarWinds does have an overwhelming number of little free tools, sometimes more than I can get my head around. But the two Kiwi tools are big blank spots, and they are quite sophisticated. Calling Kiwi's Syslog server "just another syslog server," for example, is shortchanging Kiwi--if I just needed a Syslog server to copy messages to a disk file, I could use the free one from 3COM or whatever comes on any Unix box. Kiwi Syslog goes a lot further than that in its ability to sort, re-direct, e-mail, alert, compress, and manage incoming syslog and SNMP data. Same for the Kiwi CatTools---it's not just grabbing the config of every device nightly; it's doing a lot more management.

So when I got the press release that Kiwi had been picked up by SolarWinds, I was glad for two reasons. First, since I'm probably going to convert over from What's Up to SolarWinds, this gave me more reasons to keep up with the conversion and a hope that I would be able to integrate the tools at least at some level in the near future. Second, it meant that Kiwi would get additional resources to improve their tools. Dealing with Kiwi from a support point of view hasn't been a bad experience, but sometimes we're ahead of the power curve when it comes to installing new devices and being told to get in line and wait for them to get around to it isn't always the best answer.

Of course, I did wonder if SolarWinds was just going to cannibalize the Kiwi customer base (folks like us!) and make us all move to their bigger, meaner, more expensive products, but before I could even ask the question, I got an e-mail from Josh at SolarWinds assuring me that they were going to let me keep running Kiwi tools forever, even if I didn't buy any other SolarWinds tools.

Thus, this looks to me like win/win: more resources for us happy Kiwi users, and more tools for the SolarWinds fans. </end>

What's your take? Does SolarWinds' buy bode well for Kiwi customers? Will the Kiwi technology fill gaps in SolarWinds' portfolio? Let me know.

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